Charities seek witnesses for ‘crucial’ benefits evidence session


Campaigners are seeking disabled people who can explain how the government’s new “universal credit” benefit reforms could see other people like them losing out financially.

Three charities – Disability Rights UK, Citizens Advice and The Children’s Society – fear thousands of disabled people will receive lower levels of support under the new system.

Universal credit – introduced as part of the controversial Welfare Reform Act and with the aim of simplifying the benefits system – will be rolled out from October 2013.

Disabled people already receiving benefits will receive “transitional protection” and so should not suffer an immediate drop in income, but new claimants of universal credit will not receive such protection.

The charities fear universal credit will fail to take account of the additional costs disabled people face because of their impairments, such as mobility aids, adaptations, transport, and support at home.

The three charities are now looking for disabled people – and carers of disabled children – who can talk about the extra costs they face at an evidence session in the House of Lords on 11 July that will be chaired by the disabled peer Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson.

They hope these witnesses will be able to give evidence about the impact a drop in support would have on their lives.

Because the government will not decide what level of support it will provide under universal credit until later this year, the charities say the evidence provided by the session could be “crucial” in influencing those decisions.

The charities will publish a briefing later this month to explain the “likely financial consequences” of universal credit for different groups of disabled people.

They will also launch a survey on the extra costs of being a disabled person, with the results being used for a report – to include evidence from the 11 July session – on the probable impact of universal credit.

Among those groups expected to lose out are: disabled people who are working or have worked and would be likely to be found “fit for work”; disabled people who live on their own, without a carer, and receive the middle or higher rate care component of disability living allowance (DLA); and couples who both claim DLA at higher or middle rate care, and do not have carers.

Travel expenses will be paid to those giving evidence, while those unable to travel could be interviewed on film at home.

7 June 2012


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